On Monday, May 15, a day after Mother’s Day — one of the biggest street sales of the year — vendors took to the streets, but this time not to sell flowers or gift baskets.
Tamale and hot dog vendors, ice cream sellers, and other people who make their living under the sun and in the rain, sacrificed their income for a day and went out early in the morning in a cleanup caravan stretching from the San Fernando Valley to Los Angeles.
More than 100 vendors were part of the caravan to ensure clean streets in prominent vending neighborhoods. The group started sweeping sidewalks and curbs in Panorama City to highlight the positive role they play in keeping the sidewalks clean and safe. They would also clean areas in MacArthur Park, South Los Angeles and the Piñata District in downtown Los Angeles.
It was also an event to call attention to their plight, as the workers wait to hear back from the city of Los Angeles on an ordinance to legalize street vending.
“It’s easy to blame vendors for trash because we are on the sidewalk. But many of us work really hard to pick up after ourselves and our customers. We have the power and will to make a positive impact, and we are ready to move on with a street vendor program that will encourage more vendors to be part of the solution,” said Ana Maria Gil, a San Fernando Valley vendor and a leader within the Los Angeles Street Vending Coalition.
In February, the City Council approved a motion to decriminalize street sales, but so far it hasn’t come out with an ordinance that officially allows people to sell on the sidewalks, leaving these street entrepreneurs in limbo.
Ignacia Cid, who sells tamales in the San Fernando Valley, was one of those who took up brooms.
“I don’t have any other way to get my kids ahead. I have to sell on the streets,” the mother said.
Cid said she’s had to pay tickets of up to $500, plus the time spent going to court to deal with the citations.
Jose Baltazar, who sells hot dogs in Los Angeles, says they’re still afraid when police show up near their stalls.
“They intimidate you, they move you, they take your stuff and leave you basically on the streets,” he complained.
While vendors are happy that the misdemeanor has been dropped from sidewalk vending — an important protection for the many undocumented people fearful of the legal repercussions they could face under the current political climate — they are weary of the City Council delaying legalization.
Vendors were also very disappointed to find out that a sidewalk vending program is missing from the mayor’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
“We’ve been working really hard to understand what we need to do to ensure accessible sidewalks and it was really disappointing to find out the mayor didn’t prioritize this program. We are doing our part and we need the mayor and City Council to do their part,” said Merced Sanchez, a vendor in the Piñata District in downtown Los Angeles — an area well known as a street vending hub.
“We’re doing this so that the mayor, the city helps us. We’re tired of the tickets the police gives us. We’re going to fight until we get legalization for all vendors,” said Maria, another street vendor who did not want to give her last name.
Carla de Paz, a street vendor organizer, said they expect a report from the City Council next month that will detail the street vending permit process.